Saturday, December 6, 2008

Julinissers and Kallikantzartoi

In some countries Santa is helped by the baby Jesus. The famous elves which help Santa make and deliver the toys are the good elves but there are also some back fellows too. In Denmark, you need to take care to avoid the Julnissers at Christmas. During the rest of the year they live outside but during the winter festivities they sneak indoors to cause mayhem. Whilst Julinissers wear woollen clothes with red caps, and long red stockings and wooden clogs, they are not easy to spot. Sometimes only the family cat can see them. At Christmas the Julnissers become practical jokers and do mischievous things like hide shoes, or blow out candles. To avoid their attentions it is important to leave out a bowl of rice pudding and if they are kept happy then the children of the house find the occasional treat or lost coin. In Greece there are wicked elves called Kallikantzaroi. In order to keep them from causing trouble in the house traditionally a large log called a skakantzalos was burnt. This is the traditional Yule log. Sometime the Greek people burnt old shoes in the hope the smell would keeps the wicked elves away. It is a well held belief the smell of humans ward-off evil attention and may be a reason why our ancestors were reluctant to adopt washing. Greek children born on Christmas Eve or Christmas day were often feared to be Kallikantzaroi and as a precaution all children born within the Christmas festival were bound in braids of garlic or straw and their toenails singed.

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